'Huge step forward in search for grave of Richard III'
Archaeologists searching for the grave of Richard III have found paving stones they believe are part of a lost garden which once housed a memorial to England's last Plantagenet king.
Experts from the University of Leicester and Richard III Society said the tiles, discovered under the city council's Greyfriars car park in New Street, could belong to the lost garden of Robert Herrick.
Philippa Langley, of the Richard III Society, said: "This is an astonishing discovery and a huge step forward in the search for King Richard's grave. Herrick is incredibly important in the story of Richard's grave, and in potentially helping us get that little bit closer to locating it."
Historical records state that the garden was home to a memorial to Richard, killed in the 1485 Battle of Bosworth Field.
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Lead archaeologist Richard Buckley said the paving, made of re-used medieval tiles laid in a haphazard pattern, was found at the southern end of the site.
"The tiles were extremely worn and of many different sizes," he said.
"Although the date at which the paving was laid has yet to be confirmed, we suspect that it relates to the period of Herrick's mansion."
After his defeat in battle, the king's body was stripped and brought to Leicester, where he was buried in the Church of the Franciscan Friary, known as the Grey Friars.
However, over time, the exact whereabouts of the church became lost and its remains hidden for 400 years.
The last known record of the site of King Richard's grave was recorded as being in the choir (the part of a church appropriated to singers) at Grey Friars.
Robert Herrick, a former mayor of Leicester, built a mansion on the Grey Friars site and, in 1612, the visiting Christopher Wren, father of the famous architect, recorded seeing a three-foot stone pillar in the garden, inscribed with "Here lies the body of Richard III sometime King of England".
The mansion was demolished and built over in the 1870s, and the garden area was turned into a car park in the 1940s.
The search for Richard's grave, involving the University of Leicester, the city council and Richard III Society, began a fortnight ago.
So far, three trenches have been dug, the last of which uncovered walls of the Friary church.
Mr Buckley said: "Having overcome the major hurdle of finding the church, I am now confident that we are within touching distance of finding the choir – a real turning point in the project and a stage which, at the outset, I never really thought we might reach."
The dig has been stopped for today so the public, can view the site and talk to experts, from 11am to 2pm.